Six Congressional Races Where GOP Extremism Lost

The 2012 House and Senate races were to a significant degree about the GOP’s shift to the far right of the American historical norm — assaults on the fundamentals of the social safety net unseen since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, unprecedented attempts to restrict women’s reproductive freedom, and near-theological devotion to lowering tax rates for top earners beyond their already-historic lows. But a major trend in Tuesday’s elections was a rejection of many of the Congressional aspirants who most famously embodied these ideas. Here’s six of the candidates closely aligned with the extreme elements in the Republican Party who went down to defeat:

HOUSE: Joe Walsh, Illinois

Rep. Walsh is perhaps the most famous of the Republican class of 2010 — one observer labelled him “the biggest media hound in the freshman class.” Walsh’s means of getting attention was principally his hardest of right policy positions and a series of outlandish, offensive statements. Walsh was one of the leading opponents of raising the debt ceiling despite the catastrophic consequences of not doing so, an issue that will be coming up again in the near future. He also claimed President Obama was only elected because “he pushed that magical button: a black man who was articulate, liberal, the whole white guilt, all of that” and argued that welfare was “destructive” for the poor people it helps. Walsh was defeated by Iraq war veteran and amputee Tammy Duckworth, whom he had insinuated wasn’t a “true hero” and described her record as “Female, wounded veteran … ehhh.”

SENATE: Richard Mourdock, Indiana

State Treasurer Mourdock epitomizes the process by which the Tea Party has come to control the GOP Congressional caucus, taking out incumbent moderate Sen. Richard Lugar in a bitterly contested primary. Unlike his predecessor, who was famous for working with then-Senator Obama on foreign policy issues, Mourdock appears not to believe in real bipartisanship – he thinks “bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.” It seems unlikely, however, that Democrats will want to come around to Mourdock’s positions — he is now infamous for claiming that a rape pregnancy “a gift from God…something God intended to happen” to justify his maximalist anti-choice position and refusing to apologize for the remarks.

HOUSE: Allen West, Florida

Rep. West may have even Walsh beat for most inflammatory member of the House. He has called for the censorship of American newspapers, said feminism and liberal women were “neutering” America’s men, claimed the FBI was committing “cultural suicide” by removing Islamophobic material from its training courses, and has compared progressives to both Nazis and Stalinists. And that’s just scratching the surface of West bombast, a pattern so outlandish that he became a media fixture despite an almost non-existent record of passing legislation.

SENATE: Todd Akin, Missouri

“If it’s a legitimate rape,” Rep. Akin infamously intoned in August, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Akin’s remarks kicked off 2012’s string of offensive comments about rape by GOP candidates, partly as a consequence of the fact that Akin had worked with Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan to make it such that Medicaid would only cover “forcible rape.” Akin also has been linked to a “Christian supremacist” preacher with disturbing views on rape and abortion and believes Medicare is unconstitutional. Though Akin was widely believed to be a heavy favorite before the “legitimate rape” comments, he was beaten handily by incumbent Senator Clare McCaskill (D).

SENATE: George Allen, Virginia

Former Senator Allen first lost his job in 2006, when he referred to an Indian-American campaign staffer as “macaca.” Though Allen tried to play down that incident, he has a long history of racial trouble — declaring Confederate history month as VA governor without mentioning slavery, stereotyping reporters, and reportedly demonstrating flatly racist attitudes during his football playing days. Allen also has a viciously anti-gay record: among other things, he has called for criminalizing gay sex. Finally, according to the League of Conservation Voters, Allen has “one of the worst environmental records ever,” something probably not unrelated to the fact that he’s in bed with the country’s worst corporations on the environment.

SENATE: Denny Rehberg, Montana

Less famous than the other names on this list, Rep. Rehberg is nonetheless quite representative of standard views in the GOP Congressional delegation. Rehberg believes taking health care away from the poor is the “most common sense path” to reducing the deficit, introduced legislation to ban the United Nations from stealing American guns, and sponsored a bill that blocked access to birth control and defunded Planned Parenthood. Rehberg also has a long and unbroken history of anti-gay activism.